I spend most of my free time volunteering with The Real Junk Food Project Berlin which has changed the way I think about and consume food. In December 2016, in my search for a more ecologically sustainable life, I attended a workshop given by Carlotta at Baumhaus in Berlin, Wedding. The workshop was simple but informative. Carlotta talked about how she started her Zero Waste lifestyle and how Bea Johnson's book, a gift from her grandmother, help her find new solutions to everyday habits that were not ecologically sustainable. Since that day, I have also been trying to live a more minimalistic lifestyle; Specially when I realized that I wasn't considering something as simple as how many paper towels I was using after washing my hands in a public bathroom (now I don't use any at all!).
The workshop also helped me to discover The Real Junk Food Project Berlin and soon I was volunteering regularly and formed part of the core team of members who often lead the cooking sessions and take care of many of the organizational tasks behind the project. In this post I want to talk about how I started wasting less by eating more. I will touch upon my most recent discoveries: Broccoli and its cousin Cauliflower, Carrot Leaves and Radish Leaves.
Broccoli and Cauliflower: The more I became conscious about unnecessary actions that were ecologically unsustainable, the more I learned and opened my horizons when it came to food. I was once at a cooking session where a volunteer was eating raw cauliflower. "You can eat that raw?!", I asked in shock. "Sure, try it and see if you like it", she replied cheerfully. Soon I learned that there are a lot of things that you can actually eat raw and also help to obtain more nutrients from the plant. Broccoli stems, for example, can be chopped finely and added to a salad. I learned that eating raw is the best way to get the most out of vegetables and that eating a variety of colors reflects a higher variety of nutrients. Also, in case you didn't know, the darker and deeper the color of the vegetable, the higher its nutritional value (I learned this in the last workshop we gave with The Real Junk Food Project about cooking with color.) This is all coming from someone who suffers a lot from indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. It is true that if you introduce too much "rawness" to your diet too fast, your stomach may not like it. But after hearing these surprising facts, I usually never cook broccoli anymore and I definitely never give away the stem to be decomposed! If you don't like eating raw, at least now you know you can cook the broccoli and cauliflower stems and they will taste like a crunchier version of the darker flowers of the vegetable. You can, in fact, also cook the leaves that surround them. When in doubt about eating a part of a veggie I buy, I search in google (using ecosia) and make sure I am looking at reliable sources. But it is most likely that it will be edible. Just beware of rhubarb which apparently has toxic leaves!
Carrot Leaves: When I was visiting my sister in Houston last year, I bought a bunch of carrots that came with the leafy greens. Since there is no municipal compost in Houston, I was too sad to see these leaves go to the trash. I researched about it and was excited to find out that the leaves of the carrots actually have 6 times more vitamin c that the roots and are a source of calcium and potassium. Now I could sort of relate to the fact I read about the coca leaf being a good source of calcium for indigenous people in the andes! By now my palette has become quite used to very crunchy and earthy tasting food so I like the leafy carrot leaves in salad. When I first found out you could eat them, I still found them too bitter and was using them to cook. If you cook lentils or beans the South American way (by frying onions with tomatoes with spices and adding them to the cooking process) you could easily add them to the mix! They can also be nice as a little detail to salads or other dishes the same way you would use parsley. Since they come in a such a large bunch, a tip for these and for any leafy salad is to wrap them in a cloth or fabric bag before putting them in the fridge.
Radish Leaves: This week, after buying a bunch of beautiful radishes in the farmers market and storing them in fridge, I began to wonder... Can you also eat the leaves of radishes? Indeed the radish leaves are the most nutritious part of the vegetable. These leaves are even more bitter than carrot leaves. Probably due to the bitter nature of the radishes themselves. In small quantities, I like them in a mixed salad but beware: they don’t stay fresh very long (even if wrapped in fabric). The best way to consume them if you know you won't eat them all raw within a few days, is to cook them using your favorite method (with a bit of water or with oil and spices) and serve them as a side dish. Today I added them to the beans I made (by frying them with onions and spices before adding the raw beans and water) and they gave my beans a nice little twist. They shrink like any soft leafy veggie when cooked so even if they seem like a lot, I am sure the amount that comes with one bunch of radishes won't be an overwhelming amount for you to accompany your meal, or share with others.
I will continue making these small little discoveries and encourage you to do the same! We all have different taste palettes and food preferences but the next time you are eating something, whether it is a vegetable a fruit, think twice about which part you will eat and which one you will discard; surely you will slowly start making small discoveries like me. Cut an apple and try to eat everything but the seeds! If you like it, do it again. If you don’t, try it with the next one.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments please contact me.